CHICAGO (January 25, 2008) – Tony DiCicco, the head coach for the U.S. Women's National Team from 1994-1999, has been named the head coach
of the U.S. Under-20 Women's National Team. DiCicco replaces Jillian Ellis, who has been hired by current U.S. Women's National Team head coach Pia Sundhage as an assistant on her staff through the 2008 Olympics, should the USA qualify in April.
DiCicco, one of the most legendary coaches in U.S. women's soccer history, won 103 matches, the 1996 Olympics and the historic 1999 Women's World Cup with the U.S. Women. DiCicco will be charged with taking over a team that will attempt to qualify for the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup being held in Chile from Nov. 20-Dec. 7. Dates and venues for the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament have yet to be set.
""When Jill agreed to join my staff as an assistant, it left a void in a very important position,"" said Sundhage. ""Tony has won gold medals at the highest levels. He knows what it takes to become a great player for the National Team and that knowledge will be very valuable for these young players. With the kind of experience these young players get from playing with the U-20s and other youth national teams, I've seen in the past that it's especially important for the coach to share what it takes to reach the next level. It makes the players' experience even better.
""I am also excited that Jill has joined our staff. She knows many of the players on the National Team now and her experience internationally and knowledge of the young players will be very valuable to us.""
Last fall, DiCicco was named head coach of the Boston Breakers in the new women's professional league, the WPS (Women's Professional Soccer), slated to start play in 2009.. DiCicco currently serves as the technical director of FSASoccerPlus Football Club in Connecticut, a youth club that he founded in 2003. He is also the head coach of the SoccerPlus CT Reds of the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) which won the USASA U-23 National Championship in 2007.
""This is a tremendous opportunity to coach an elite group of talented and motivated U.S. players,"" said DiCicco, who went 103-8-8 as head coach of the USA. ""Our goal is two-fold.. In the last two youth world cups we have come up shy of the championship so one of our goals is to win the championship. Second, , we want to help develop top international players for Pia Sundhage and our full Women's National Team.""
Ellis coached the U-20s for all of 2007 and in the first training camp of 2008, but now moves to the senior team to work alongside Sundhage, completing a staff that also includes assistant coach Erica Walsh, goalkeeper coach Phil Wheddon and strength and fitness coach Helena Andersson. Ellis has been deeply involved with U.S. Soccer over the years, coaching extensively in the U.S. youth National Team programs, including two stints as head coach of the U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team and serving as a scout for the U.S. women during the 2000 Olympics in Australia. Ellis is also the current head women's soccer coach at UCLA, where she has taken the Bruins to six Final Fours.
""Joining the staff for the National Team is a wonderful opportunity,"" said Ellis. ""I'm very excited to be involved with a coach of Pia's caliber and work with all the assistants as well as the top players in the United States. While I'm disappointed that I won't be with this group of U-20s through to their world championship, they are in fantastic hands. The base of a strong team is being built.""
DiCicco will officially coach his first event with the U-20s during a trip to Chile in mid-February where the team will face three U-20 Women's National Teams: England (Feb. 11), Norway (Feb. 13) and Chile (Feb. 15). The schedule for the U-20s this year will include numerous training camps, as many as four international trips, matches against U-20 and full Women's National Teams, and of course, the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.
The U.S. Under-19 Women's National Team won the first-ever FIFA youth world championship in 2002, defeating Canada in the title game, 1-0, on a golden goal from current U.S. Women's National Team player Lindsay Tarpley. Also on that team, coached by Tracey Leone, were current U.S. players Heather O'Reilly, Lori Chalupy and Leslie Osborne. O'Reilly and Tarpley would go on to play in the 2004 Olympics and all four made the U.S. roster for the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. Two years later, under Mark Krikorian, the U.S. U-19s finished third at the world championship in Thailand. That team that featured six players who have earned caps at the senior level including 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup
starter Stephanie Cox.
In 2006 as FIFA moved its oldest youth world championship for women to the U-20 level, the USA finished fourth at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship in Russia under head coach Tim Schulz. That team featured five players who last week helped the senior side win the 2008 Four Nations Tournament -- Cox, Lauren Cheney, Amy Rodriguez, Tina DiMartino and Tobin Heath.
""All the players with the U-20s have the aspiration of playing for our full Women's National Team,"" said DiCicco. ""The schedule that we are putting together to develop these players from now until qualifying, and hopefully to Chile, is a fantastic vehicle for players to get their game to the next level. This is an opportunity for young players to be training and playing with and against the top players in the world from their age group, This can't help but further their growth.""